More than 30 years after their bodies were found in a field near Calder Road, Jane and Janet Doe finally have their stories back.
The women — two among four bodies found in the field over a seven-year period — are now officially identified as Audrey Lee Cook, of Memphis, Tennessee, and Donna Prudhomme, of Port Arthur, League City police announced Monday.
Cook was about 30 when she died, Prudhomme was about 34, police said.
Cook’s body was found in 1986, while Prudhomme wasn’t discovered until 1991.
Police officials said the purpose of the news conference was mostly to identify the women, and the information helped detectives eliminate Mark Stalling as a suspect in the killings, said Lt. Michael Buffington, who heads the department’s investigation division and helps work on the cold cases.
Stallings, who is serving a life sentence for an unrelated crime, had confessed to several killings in the area at the time, but many of the things he has said don’t agree with what investigators know, Buffington said.
The League City Police Department has known the identities of Cook and Prudhomme for several weeks, Chief Gary Ratliff said. Detectives hope the public release of that information will help jog the memory of people who knew them, he said.
Investigators had been in contact with relatives of the two women, Buffington said.
“We’ve had some emotional conversations with the family members,” Buffington said. “This has been not unlike telling someone their family member was murdered yesterday.”
Cook, born in Tennessee, lived in the Houston and Channelview areas between 1976 and 1985, police said. She worked for a golf cart company in 1979, a business called Harrison Equipment Co. in about 1980 and one called Balloon Affair in 1981, investigators said.
Investigators provided no other details about those businesses. They said Cook also had worked for National Rent-A-Car, but when was unknown.
Cook’s family last spoke with her in December 1985, investigators said.
Investigators suspect she sold and used cocaine, Buffington said.
“We wanted to put all the facts we could out there, because we want to jog everyone’s memory,” Buffington said. “We even want people to come forward who might have associated with her at that level.”
Prudhomme, meanwhile, moved from her birthplace in the Beaumont area to Houston in 1986 and later moved to the NASA Road 1 area of Seabrook in 1988, police said. Her last known residence is Nassau Bay in 1991, police said.
Police are withholding the identities of the women’s relatives at their request, Buffington said.
Prudhomme had two sons — only one of whom is still living — and detectives had spoken to him and Prudhomme’s sister, Ratliff said.
“Donna was trying to escape an abusive relationship when she moved to the area and her children went to live with their grandparents,” Buffington said.
Prudhomme was charged with one crime in Galveston County, according to court records. In October 1990, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years’ probation for possession of cocaine, according to court records.
In identifying the two women, detectives used a process similar to the one used to track down the suspected Golden State Killer, Ratliff said. The Golden State Killer committed more than 13 rapes and murders in California during the 1970s and 1980s.
After years without any developments, officials in August charged Joseph James DeAngelo in the California crimes based on DNA evidence.
League City police recently worked with Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs, which specializes in phenotyping, to analyze DNA samples from Cook and Prudhomme, officials said.
The company uses the DNA to ascertain a person’s ancestry, eye, hair and skin color, freckling and face shape, among other characteristics.
The two women’s bodies were found in the Calder Road field more than five years apart and are two of four bodies found in the area between 1984 and 1991.
Two of those bodies were identified. The first, found in 1984, was Heide Fye, 25, of League City, who had disappeared in 1983. The second, found in 1986, was Laura Miller, a League City teenager who went missing in 1984.
Cook had been shot in the back with a small-caliber bullet, according to police.
A group of people riding horses found Prudhomme in September 1991, police said.
She had numerous old rib and spine injuries before her death, police said. She might have had problems moving her head or back because of those injuries, police said.
People who knew Cook between 1985 and 1986 and Prudhomme between 1990 and 1991 will be especially helpful in advancing the investigation, Ratliff said.
“We want to get as much information out as possible,” Ratliff said. “This is the first time we’ve all four of the girls’ identities.”
The new information provides detectives many new angles to work the case, but investigators still haven’t singled out a primary person of interest, Buffington said. Detectives are considering several people in connection with the killings.
The four bodies found near Calder Road have been grouped into a larger number of bodies found in the region that together have become known as the Texas Killing Fields, Ratliff said. That has increased exposure, but also led to a few unrelated tips, he said.